Felipe Arturo | Bogotá, Colombia

Hello, my name is Felipe Arturo. I am an artist, architect, and educator living in Bogotá.

Today I want to tell you about a memory of my childhood.

Before that, let me introduce my practice. I work with different media including sculpture, furniture, museography, and experimental video. I produce installations where visitors can participate in memorable experiences. 

In my 20-year career, I’ve made video installations of virtual monuments with bricks or earth walls; mutable floors with materials like sugar, soy, or tobacco; a reconstruction of a bar from Iquitos in an empty theatre; and a multimedia installation based on the historical migration of coffee for the Biennale de Lyon.

Sometimes, my work refers to political events, such as when I installed a garden in the main square of Bogotá, the rows of plants forming the word ACUERDO (agreement) in support of the peace process in Colombia in 2016. Or when I made an installation with bulletproof garments at Fragmentos, a new art institution conceived by artist Doris Salcedo.

Now I will return to my memory, which takes place in the square near where I grew up with my mother. It was an election day, on a Sunday in March 1990. People were excited and the floor was covered in papers of all kinds of colours.

Later in my life, I realized that this had been the day when a national student-led movement proposed an unofficial referendum to be held alongside the elections, asking people to deposit an additional ballot in the ballot boxes, calling for a new Constitutional Assembly. It is estimated that the campaign achieved one million votes and provided the political momentum that enabled the Constitution of 1991.

This movement known as “la séptima papeleta” (the seventh ballot) made the impossible possible. It reunited the country with a common goal amid a multi-layered civil war. The new constitution allowed long-awaited changes to take place, facilitating the advance of indigenous, women’s, gender, and Afro-Colombian communitarian rights, among many other revolutionary changes.

I’m working on the idea to create an image of this movement: a stack of those one million votes that never got officially counted but nevertheless changed Colombian history. This work will be called the Ephemeral Monument for the Constitution of 1991.

I imagine this monument will be sited in the middle of a park surrounded by trees. It will be a glass box with one million papers in several colours, reproducing the original ballot printed by the student movement. The box will be surrounded by four giant canvases supported by scaffolds, each with the number 1991 printed over rows of human silhouettes.

The ephemeral monument creates a concrete image for the familiar abstraction of democracy. Have you ever seen one million votes?

This work also talks about memory itself, about how we remember certain collective events, and how we need, as we grow older, to bring them back into the present.

I’m working on a campaign to fund this project. Soon you will be able to find further information about this project and my work on the following links: